Beilein has drawn up some easy layups for Wagner. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
I'm gonna try something new here with our hoops coverage. The Basketbullets posts have mostly been game column type things; I'm repurposing the name for what I plan to be a weekly or sometimes semi-weekly post with a couple regular staples—picture page play breakdowns and the KenPom Stat of the Week—and any other items of note. This is a work-in-progress; suggestions for regular features to include are more than welcome in the comments.
Kennesaw State Not-A-Recap
I took a rare weekend off, so I wasn't at the 82-55 Kennesaw State blowout on Saturday, and the time I set aside to go over the game today ended up dedicated to the next section instead. Dylan's recap and Five Key Plays should have you covered.
While rote destructions of teams ranked in the 300s on KenPom are to be expected, this one contained some encouraging signs. Moe Wagner scored a career-high 20 points, making all four his his twos and 3-of-4 three-pointers in 25 minutes; he had no turnovers and one foul. DJ Wilson avoided the foul trouble that plagued him against Virginia Tech and posted an efficient 15-11 double-double. Every Michigan player to see ten minutes of action posted an ORating of at least 106 except Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who continued a troubling stretch of poor games with an 0-for-5 performance. Highlights. Full box score.
[Hit THE JUMP for a seemingly unstoppable set, the KenPom Stat of the Week, and more.]
M's best post defender? It's, uh, in the eye of the beholder. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
After Wednesday night's Virginia Tech game, I sat in on John Beilein's postgame presser, attempting to fill out my game recap by transcribing quotes as Beilein talked. I stopped dead, however, at this quote, because I had just watched the same game and came away with a very different take:
“Scoring points wasn’t as big as trying to stop them. Right now, Mark [Donnal]’s a better defender. In defense of Moe [Wagner], Moe’s been sick all day, didn’t feel good. He was doing alright taking the ball to the basket."
What follows is a more thorough examination of Michigan's post defense against Virginia Tech than is necessary or easily digestible, but I spent an entire day compiling these numbers and video clips, so you will read this and like it*, dammit.
*you will probably not like it, sorry.
I began by looking at the points per possession numbers on both ends of the court with each center on the floor. The results:
OFFENSE TOTAL: 28 poss, 30 pts (1.07 PPP)
DEFENSE TOTAL: 27 poss, 29 pts (1.07 PPP)
OFFENSE TOTAL: 28 poss, 33 pts (1.18 PPP)
DEFENSE TOTAL: 27 poss, 36 pts (1.33 PPP)
OFFENSE TOTAL: 7 poss, 7 pts (1.00 PPP)
DEFENSE TOTAL: 7 poss, 6 pts (0.86 PPP)
DJ Wilson had two defensive possessions at center: a post stop and two free throws allowed after one of his fouls going for an offensive rebound.
While small sample size caveats abound, this matched the eye test both from this game and this season. The defensive numbers stood up to further scrutiny; the offensive numbers, which surprised me, did not. Non-Donnal Wolverines shot 6-for-13 on three-pointers when he was on the floor; Donnal added a three-point miss himself and didn't assist any of the six makes. Michigan made only 3-of-10 threes when Wagner was out there, and he assisted one of the makes. There wasn't a difference in the quality of the attempts; if M had shot 30% from three with Donnal on the floor like they did with Wagner, Donnal's offensive PPP in this game would've been 0.96.
[Hit THE JUMP for video and analysis, if you dare.]
A thousand words. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
This one is going to sting.
Michigan had every opportunity to put Virginia Tech away and get a quality home win only to squander it with poor defense, strange substitutions by John Beilein, and a hideous heroball play by Zak Irvin on the potential game-winning shot.
The first half went about as well as one could ask. The Wolverines jumped out to a quick lead and were up by double digits for most of the opening stanza, exploiting VT's matchup zone—something they'd seen already this season against Howard—for a series of open threes and layups. Irvin was especially hot, pouring in 15 of his game-high 23 in the first half, and solid offensive contributions from Duncan Robinson, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, and Moe Wagner combined with sloppy play from VT to give the Wolverines a nine-point halftime edge.
It was a different story in the second half. The Hokies stopped coughing up the ball, allowing them to attack Robinson and MAAR on the perimeter for blow-by layups and take advantage of Mark Donnal's interior defense seemingly every possession he was on the floor.
"[We were] just doing some strange things on defense, and it really cost us," said John Beilein.
"Sometimes we just lose that edge when you've got to get a stop, we lose that edge to get a stop. We've got to be a better defensive team than that."
Wagner had an efficient outing that left many wanting more. [Campredon]
Even though Wagner clearly outplayed Donnal throughout the game, they each logged 17 minutes, and the difference between the two was stark on both ends. VT's Zach LeDay got most of his 18 points when matched up with Donnal; he found the going tougher against Wagner and, for one possession before he fouled out, DJ Wilson. The Hokies couldn't stop Wagner, who hit 5-of-6 shots—most of them driving layups—for 11 points. Donnal did not score.
Michigan's ball movement petered out in the second half, too, and with it went their hot shooting; they shot only 12-for-30 and 3-for-13 from beyond the arc. Irvin embodied Michigan's struggles. After going 6-for-8 in the first half, making his shots within the confines of the offense, he hit only 4-of-12 in the second, forcing more of his looks. None were worse than his heroball chuck on Michigan's penultimate possession, which badly missed the mark with Michigan down one.
"We were trying to isolate him and they took him away a little bit. We know what to do when they take him away and we didn't do it," Beilein said. "It's that simple. So now we got isolated and we got all gunked up there, we couldn't call timeout, and we got a bad shot."
"I wish we had a timeout to really put something together. They blew it up and we didn't counter well."
After two VT free throws and a deflected inbounds pass, Michigan had one last chance on a sideline inbounds play with 3.7 seconds left. Wagner saved a long toss to Robinson, who got a half-decent look to tie it, but his shot rimmed out as the buzzer sounded.
"It's a great learning curve game for us, and we'll grow from it," Beilein said. "We didn't deserve the win the game the way we played those last ten minutes."
One team found shooting a little easier than the other. [Joseph Dressler]
If this is a fever dream, please don't wake me up.
A little over 11 months after SMU played like men among boys in a 24-point win over Michigan, the Wolverines returned the favor to win the 2K Classic due to imposing size, dominant defense, and red-hot shooting from Derrick Walton.
I'll let that all sink in for a moment.
This was the best all-around performance by John Beilein's squad since the 2013-14 Big Ten title team. Michigan scored 1.32 points per possession while holding SMU to 0.88. The Wolverines turned the ball over four times and forced 13 Mustang turnovers. They hit 67% of their shots inside the arc and 43% of their three-pointers. They never trailed; from the 6:18 mark of the first half onward, the margin was never within double digits.
After going scoreless in Thursday night's win over Marquette, Walton had the best shooting performance of his career, hitting 7-of-12 threes to score a game-high 23 points and dishing out five assists with no turnovers. Fellow senior Zak Irvin was nearly as impressive, posting 16 points on 14 shot equivalents, grabbing six boards, and handing out five assists against a lone turnover.
Zak Irvin took home 2K Classic MVP honors. [Dressler]
The big story, however, was once again Michigan's frontcourt play. SMU power forward Semi Ojeleye entered the game averaging 23 points. With DJ Wilson seemingly everywhere on defense, Ojeleye managed only 11 on 4-for-13 shooting, and he was far from alone in his struggles; SMU shot 39% as a team. Wilson's six points, three rebounds, two steals, and two blocks don't come close to encapsulating his impact tonight. With Wilson and either Moe Wagner, Mark Donnal, or behemoth freshman Jon Teske manning the interior, SMU hardly had a clean look all evening.
Wagner and Donnal once again had efficient games on offense to go along with their strong work on defense. Donnal had nine points on 4-of-5 shooting and capped the sequence of the night for Michigan: after Wilson drew a foul on a highlight-worthy dunk, Donnal rebounded the ensuing free throw, popped to the perimeter, and was rewarded for his effort with a three-pointer. Wagner had a quieter night because of some early foul trouble, but still managed to hit one of two three-pointers and pull down a few impressive rebounds. Teske made a surprise appearance early and held his own, forcing an SMU miss with his rather astonishing length and hitting a pair of free throws after getting fouled on a pick-and-roll.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman found his groove with a couple strong takes to the basket, and after a slow start from the perimeter he eventually found his shot, finishing with 12 points on eight attempts. A quiet game from Duncan Robinson (2 points, 0-for-2 FG) was really the only negative of the game, and his role has diminished greatly with the emergence of Wilson at the four.
While it's dangerous to put too much stock in an early-season game, this marks two consecutive great performances by Michigan against teams that were supposed to pose significant challenges. That they've accomplished this on the strength of suffocating defense only adds to the excitement. There may not have been much buzz surrounding this team heading into the season, but that is already in the process of changing. It appears that, once again, John Beilein has successfully transformed his team for the better.
Marquette had no answer for Michigan's size. Seriously. [Joseph Dressler]
"They're just too big," said Karl Ravech, the ESPN play-by-play man. He was talking about a Michigan basketball team. It was a true statement.
"The defense by Michigan has really been outstanding," Fran Fraschilla added a short time later.
By the second half, the two were discussing how future opponents would handle Michigan's size as Moe Wagner demonstrated precisely why they were on that topic:
MOE WAGNER IS GOOD. pic.twitter.com/W44ug1ypvS
— Evan Petzold (@EvanPetzold) November 18, 2016
The key to it all was the insertion of DJ Wilson into the starting lineup in Duncan Robinson's stead. Both players flourished in their new roles. Wilson looked every bit as good as he did in the season's first two games, if not better, tallying his first career double-double with ten points and 13 boards and filling out the box score with a pair of assists and blocks. Robinson came off the bench to match his season point total, hitting 3-of-4 three-point attempts to finish with ten himself. The switch allowed John Beilein to unleash Wilson and pick ideal matchups for Robinson; it paid off immediately.
Michigan jumped out to an early lead due to hot outside shooting and a torrent of Marquette turnovers. Even the big men got into the act, with Wagner, Wilson, and Mark Donnal all connecting on first-half triples. Robinson's pair of first-half bombs got the lead up to double digits, and a strong stretch by Donnal—his tip-in of a Xavier Simpson miss elicited Ravech's comment—helped push the margin up to 24 points at the break.
DJ Wilson dominated the boards. [Dressler]
The Wolverines were able to set it on cruise control for the second half. They eased up a little too much at times, committing some sloppy turnovers to allow Marquette to get as close as 12 points down, but every run was swiftly rebuffed.
The frontcourt was the story of the night, as it should've been: Mark Donnal went 6-for-9 for 15 points, Wilson was everywhere, and Wagner tallied nine points and the SportsCenter posterization. That overshadowed a quietly solid performance from the others. Zak Irvin had his midrange game going early and started knocking down threes, too, on his way to a 16-6-6 stat line marred only by four turnovers.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman finished with 15 via frequent trips to the line and some tough twos. Derrick Walton and Xavier Simpson didn't need to score to make an impact. Both played excellent perimeter defense and the offense didn't skip a beat when Walton sat with two fouls early on. Notably, Beilein let Walton re-enter the game with two fouls midway through the half, and he rewarded his coach's confidence by not picking up another the rest of the way.
The resounding victory puts Michigan in tomorrow night's 2K Classic title game against SMU, another team that looks like it will surpass preseason expectations after a comfortable 76-67 win over Pitt in the other semifinal. That game tips at 7 pm on ESPN2. A bigger, burlier Mustangs squad should provide a tougher matchup; if Michigan is able to get through that close to as well as they did tonight's game, it'll be time to get really excited about where this season can go.
DJ Wilson is happening. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
I was in a van traveling through Iowa and Illinois while the Michigan hoops squad defeated IUPUI 77-65. I just finished going over the game, which played out much like last Friday's defeat of Howard. The Wolverines got off to a slow start, trailing 32-30 with 4:18 left in the first half, before closing out the half with a 13-0 run—the margin never got below nine points in the second half.
It's time for some bullets, starting with the story of the season thus far.
DJ Wilson is overtaking Duncan Robinson. We're only two games into the season, but it sure looks like Wilson is going to take Robinson's spot in the starting lineup, or at the very least end up playing more minutes in a super-sub role. The latter is what happened against IUPUI. Robinson started and scored seven points in only 12 minutes, but he's still not a great defender. Wilson played 30 minutes and packed the stat-sheet: seven points, 14(!) rebounds (four offensive), an assist, and five(!!!) blocks. He even hit one of his two three-point attempts and looked comfortable doing so.
[Hit THE JUMP for more DJ Wilson praise and the rest of my notes from IUPUI.]